Self-Love

It is officially #Valentinesday, and today we are focusing on LOVE. Yes, Love but not the Love we have for others—we are focusing on SELF-LOVE and what it means to love ourselves.

Every #Valentinesday, our stories are centered around the Love we have for others. But today, we are changing the narrative and are focusing on self-love and what it means to love ourselves—the Love we have for ourselves. Or should have for ourselves.

Over the last few years, self-love has been a hot topic, which is beautiful. But often, shoved into our faces, it becomes more of a negative narrative than a positive one. And it is filled with many misconceptions.

We have all been striving to love ourselves in one way or another. Because maybe we were told we need to love ourselves, or perhaps we feel a deep pull from within that something is missing that we can not seem to get from the outside.

In our daily conversations, we toss around phrases like: “Why do you not love yourself?” “How do you expect anyone to love you if you don’t love yourself?” “If you love yourself, this or that will or will not happen.” “You have to love yourself more.” “You can not love another person unless you love yourself,” etc. And the conversation has continued that way for many, I am sure.

The Misconception

But there is an issue with all of the self-love information out there, and there is a lot. The concept is not fully understood and, in many cases, is not understood at all. I have found so much conflicting and toxic information. And many articles providing instant ways to love ourselves are astonishing. Including one piece that provided “Five ways to love yourself right now.” As if it were that easy.

I am speaking from personal experience. With all the information I gathered, I did not grasp what it meant to love myself now in my present. I did love myself at one time in my life, I am sure. But the lack of understanding and information overload has caused me great confusion with experiencing and benefiting from real self-love and loving myself right now. Right now, it makes me think of someone else. The woman who does not know how to love herself has never experienced it or can not grasp what that means. How confused is she with all of these misconceptions? How deeper into self-loathing can she be pushed?

It was scary when I realized I did not love myself as I thought. I did not know who I was; worst of all, I did not value myself. And I know I am not the only woman who feels this way. We may not all admit it, but there are many of us.

Just like you probably are, I was doing things in the name of self-love only to continue to feel a deep sense of disconnect from myself. I felt lost. Unsupported, unworthy, and alone. 

I mistook self-care, self-reliance, and self-maintenance for self-love. While these all intertwine, I have learned they are not the same. And if there is no self-love present, our efforts in self-care and self-maintenance do not provide lasting happiness or joy. 

We live in a society where everyone preaches self-love. Everyone seems to have it all together and often pretends they know who they are. So in that moment of realization, I felt terrible and ashamed that I did not have it all together. I did not know who I was outside of the labels and did not love myself. I felt like I was failing at life and something was incredibly wrong with me. But then I started to get curious. 

Understanding self-love began with a commitment to getting to know who I am. (Re)Discovering who I am then became the journey I chose. Some days, it is the most challenging journey I have ever taken. But I love discovering myself. I love being aware when I am slipping into old conditioned habits. To know when I am isolating myself instead of saying I need alone time, and I love those moments when I shower myself with the sort of kindness I have never shown myself. And I enjoy using my voice and unregrettably saying I do not like that or I will not do that. 

I am here to tell you without a doubt that self-love begins with having the courage to commit to self (re)discovery. 

It is about getting honest with ourselves and questioning the ideas we have about ourselves. The beliefs we hold so dearly about ourselves. And the conditioning we received throughout our lives.

Our perception of ourselves is often tiny, and our beliefs about ourselves are not valid—they are not the truth. As a result, we are disconnected from who we are at our most authentic nature. 

At some point in our lives, we lose our innocent Love for ourselves. And many of us were not taught how to nurture it when we were younger to grow in the beautifulness it is meant to be.

 I remember a time when I was kind to myself. A time when I nurtured and valued myself, and I thought I was worthy of any and everything I wanted or needed [not in a selfish and self-centered way]. I do not know when it all stopped, but I lost that connection some time in my life.

The beautiful things that I have concluded through this self-love journey are:

1) that we can always go home—meaning (re)connect or (re)discover that Love we once held for ourselves. 

2) self-love looks different for everyone. There is only one of us; therefore, there is no one size fits all path toward loving yourself. But there is a foundation for what self-love looks like and what it is not.

3) It is hard work because we live in a society where we are excessively told we are not good enough or not worthy—a culture where we feel unvalued, unheard, and unseen. 

You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level

Eckhart Tolle

Do not let anyone tell you what self-love should look like for you. Everyone’s path will look different. And do not let anyone make you feel like you need to be stuck in a rabbit hole of self-love bliss.

It is beyond ok to have a shitty day, be imperfect, and have a messy emotional day — we are humans, after all, and nothing is perfect. But, what would be the point of living if everything was perfect? 

To Love Ourselves is to:

  • Be aware that you are not practicing self-love but instead practicing self-care, self-maintenance, or self-reliance.
  • Allow space for your shitty and messy emotional days without shaming yourself, the ifs and buts, or beating up on yourself.
  • Understand that there are days you will not like yourselves but will practice self-compassion. You will be gentle with yourselves. And you will give yourselves a bit of grace and empathy because you deserve it.
  • Know and understand that loving yourself is not automatic; it takes constant work and MUST be practiced. 
  • Choose yourself every day just, regardless of what is going on in your life. Fill your cup first. It is about ensuring you are not taking more from your cup than adding to it.
  • Be a flawed and imperfect human being but still hold yourself in the highest regard. 
  • Do not fall into the narrative of shame, self-judgment, or self-hatred when you have made a mistake or did not do something you said you would. 
  • Constantly fight against your inner critic. Stand up to her with all your might and kick her ass because you are enough. 
  • Try new things even though you know you can fail or look silly. But have fun anyway and laugh at yourself.
  • Make sacrifices for yourself as you would your family and friends. We will easily endure uncomfortably for the happiness of others. So do the same for yourself.
  • Choose uncomfortable growth instead of remaining stuck and a victim of your circumstances.
  • Be curious about yourself and pay attention.
  • Embrace and feel your many emotions. When you push away your feelings or distract yourself from them, you do a disservice to yourself. You cheat yourself from learning something about yourself that will help you grow. Make space for them, feel them, process them and learn from them. Trust me; if you do not, they will find a way to get out into your relationship, everyday life, etc.
  • Walk away from people or situations that make you feel small, bad about yourself, or cause inner turmoil. We would do anything to protect the people we love and care about. We will not allow someone to speak ill of those we love, manipulate, or yell at them. Yet we allow others to do that to us. 
  • Not being reliant on outside validation.
  • Embrace being aware of your imperfections and incompleteness and accept that it makes you unapologetically. 
  • Let others love you even on those days you do not love yourself. 
  • Say goodbye to anyone or anything which prevents you from becoming your best self.
  • Give yourself grace when you mess up. To live is to make mistakes. To be human is to be perfectly imperfect — you will not always get it right. Just be honest with yourself, and investigate what went wrong. Practice acceptance and move through it. Do not get stuck. And please, for the Love of yourselves, do not let the negative aspect of what it means to love yourself make you believe that loving yourself means never making mistakes.
  • Become fascinated with (re)discovering who you are. 
  • Say yes to what you enjoy doing, but also say NO to what does not or no longer serves you. 
  • Use your voice to ask for what you need and what you want. 

I was once afraid of people saying, ‘who does she think she is?’ Now I have the courage to stand and say, ‘This is who I am’

  • Be vulnerable.
  • Allow others to see you in all of your authenticness—for example, the struggles to love yourself and when you are unsure and not confident. Or when you have difficulty coping with your many emotions or can not find the words to communicate effectively. It is difficult to do, but you are not the only one dealing with these issues; it is universal. 
  • Forgive yourselves for whatever you believe you have done wrong. And move forward.
  • Protect yourselves from people who relish in your pain or find your struggles pleasurable.
  • Forgive and forget whatever wrong you believe was done to you. Life is too short to carry that kind of burden. Forgiveness is about you, not the other person.
  • Respect yourself. 
  • Practice good self-care and self-maintenance. Laugh often, practice mindfulness, eat well, get proper sleep, move your body intentionally, and maintain healthy boundaries and social interactions. 
  • Know that loving yourself a bit less than you should is not a reflection of how loveable you are.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve love and affection

Buddha

Practicing self-love is essential for a better world and it is the only way for us to experience ourselves. We get to accept and understand ourselves, even the parts of ourselves we believe to be unlovable. And I am not saying this applies to only women–no, not at all. But, it applies to everyone because we can benefit and lead fulfilling lives by loving ourselves.

This life is mine alone. So, I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been

Glennon Doyle

As women, we were taught to be ashamed of our past and mistakes. As a result, many of us have experienced physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse. Unmet needs and prolonged neglect. Disappointments and loneliness. All these experiences have caused us not to love ourselves and see ourselves as unloveable. But I want you to understand that while the world is screaming “love yourself because you should,” self-love is about you and no one else. No one knows your entire story, and no one has walked your path but you. 

In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you

Andrea Dykstra

Know that it is possible to love yourself regardless of what you have experienced in your life. It just takes courage to commit to yourself, become aware of what you feel or think or need, and the curiosity to want to get to know who you are at your truest nature. 

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